Part of a balanced campaign: Why and how you should use AR

Angelica Ortiz
Oct 12, 2018 · 6 min read

A checklist for gimmick-proofing AR ideas in your campaign executions

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Augmented Reality (AR) is often referred to as an “emerging technology,” but I like to call it a today technology. AR is no longer up and coming — it’s already making an impact in our personal and professional lives and is poised to be a $215 billion dollar market by 2021. It will only become more integrated as time goes on.

For a Creative Technologist like me, it seems like everyone has an opinion on AR nowadays. Either because they are excited for it, or they actively avoid it because it seems cost-prohibitive or too intimidating at first. There’s a way to use AR thoughtfully, and the first step would be to review this list when clients, creative directors, team members, or other stakeholders are suggesting adding AR to the campaign mix. As someone who is tired of the “app for app’s sake” mentality, I don’t want AR to suffer the fate of becoming gimmicky. I understand the immense potential of AR for a wide variety of applications, and am committed to integrating emerging technologies when it makes sense.

AR done well: Sephora’s Virtual Artist

An example of AR done well is with Sephora. For their Virtual Artist feature in their existing Sephora app, they allow users to try on a particular product, try on a whole look made by Sephora experts showcasing multiple products, and participate in AR-guided tutorials for a variety of makeup techniques. It’s also very accessible, as it goes beyond a phone screen and is made available at a kiosk in select stores.

According to Glossy by Digiday Media, “Sephora’s mobile and digital strategy is built around the idea that when people know how to use a beauty product, and what tools are needed to complete a look, they’ll be more likely to buy it.” Sephora, understanding this, knew that it was time to switch gears from traditional mobile applications towards including AR to increase sales through digital trial. Bridget Dolan, Vice President of the Sephora Innovation Lab sums it up well: “This could be a fluffy additional app, but the time and energy it has taken to make this complete is necessary for actual utility. Otherwise it’s just fun.” This is not to say that AR, fun, and brands don’t go together, but it must have a tactical, useful reason behind it in order to ensure success.

AR is great for providing something additional to your environment, whether that’s something like Sephora for adding more context, or Snapchat for making the everyday fun. What makes Sephora’s Virtual Artist so impactful is that it adds value and encouraged meaningful interaction with the brand through considering and answering these key questions:

Questions to consider

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1) Does the AR idea tie into the campaign strategy/goal?

When looking at the campaign as a whole, does the AR component make the campaign stronger, or does it feel like an add on? For example, if the purpose is to find the magic in the everyday, AR could be a great technology to push that forward by showing animations popping in unexpected places during your daily routine. However, if the purpose is just to direct people to a website or video about your product, then the point of using AR is lost. You should also consider if the AR idea pushes the campaign forward, or are you using it as just another medium to push your message? Regardless of your role, this needs to be kept in mind to ensure your AR idea has impact.

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2) Is the AR idea unique to the brand?

If your competitor (or your brand’s competitor) came up with the same idea, would they be able to successfully sell that idea as their own? This comes back to whether the AR idea is strongly tied to the campaign strategy or goal. If you are using AR to address a particular concern that is specific to your brand’s core audience (such as IKEA Assembly addressing furniture assembly frustrations), it is more difficult for competitors to copy it effectively. If it is an idea that your competitor could easily put their name on, consider another execution altogether.

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3) Is it an idea that could not be replicated as a traditional 2D mobile app?

Because of all the excitement around AR, we can get carried away with the cool factor and forget what makes AR unique. Overall, AR is a perfect medium to add or enhance context of the world around them. It can provide a 3D rendering of something that isn’t tangible at the moment but is visualized in the context of the background, like with IKEA Place. It can provide training through the context of the existing environment, such as DAQRI’s smart helmet applications for industrial clients like Siemens. It can even enhance the existing environment, making what would otherwise be boring more exciting (Snapchat is king with this). If the idea could just as easily be a 2D application, then consider making it a 2D application instead of an AR-enabled one. AR is a special medium that can produce incredible work as long as we know the best circumstances to try it.

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4) Are you wanting to use AR because you believe it would be a good technology to leverage, or only because a stakeholder “wants to do something with AR”?

Often times, a client will come up and say, “We have some extra funds that we’d like you to use for X technology in the campaign.” They often don’t say what they want the technology to do or know what the technology would solve, but because everyone else is using it, they want in too. When clients say this, be cautious moving forward. If you find that AR doesn’t make sense considering the brand, campaign, etc., don’t be afraid to say so and suggest a different implementation with those funds. It is better to say no to AR rather than make an AR application that is frustrating, doesn’t resonate and wastes everyone’s time and resources.

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5) Is your audience easily able to access AR or an AR-enabled device?

Is your brand’s audience familiar to what AR is and what it provides? Have they experienced AR before? Are they able to access your sweet AR idea? Are you confident that your audience has AR-enabled devices, or will you provide that technology for them like during a brand activation? What type of AR application will you be using (ex. WebAR, Mobile, HMD…)? These are the crucial logistical questions that, once addressed, can help refine the idea and make it closer to a reality.


Making sure AR fits into your campaign not only saves time, effort, and money, but also ensures that the AR ideas that pass the checklist are the ones that will have meaning and impact for the audience, agency, and the brand. It helps make sure AR stays relevant and impactful so we can continue to create awesome experiences. I’ve provided a checklist version of this article for you and your team to review whenever an AR idea or two come up in brainstorming sessions. Keep it close and follow up with me if you have any lingering questions, and you’ll be on your way to something special.

As I like to say, AR: part of a balanced campaign.

Thank you for reading! If you want to dig deeper into Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality use cases, AT&T Shape has a great overview of both technologies to consider.

This is an evolving, dynamic list of questions to consider, so if you have any suggestions on other points that should be added or how to improve the checklist, please let me know. You can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or you can learn more about me and my work on my portfolio.

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